Smooth sailing on the Duyfken

Robin Chester aboard the Duyfken after tying up at AQWA.
Robin Chester aboard the Duyfken after tying up at AQWA.

SHE motored into Hillarys Boat Harbour to her new winter home at AQWA on Sunday. Community News caught up with Duyfken replica captain Robin Chester.

What’s it like to come to Hillarys?

We were here for the Dirk Hartog Voyage (in 2016 on the way north to Dirk Hartog Island to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer Hartog’s WA landing) and haven’t been back since. It’s going to be good to be here through the winter at AQWA. I think everybody’s looking forward to people coming on board and seeing the ship here when they didn’t get a chance to see it at Fremantle.

What will your role as captain be while she is sitting here as a museum during winter?

Having a rest. No, I’ll be popping up every now and again to see how things are going and then wait until the ship is ready to go back at the end of winter and I’ll take it back again. Back to Fremantle and then back into the Swan River. We’re residing in the Swan River again all through the summer. When we’re in the river, we’re based at South of Perth Yacht Club and we do afternoon twilight sails from there.

The Duyfken nestled in its new home. Picture: Martin Kennealey

Any maintenance on the ship while she’s here?

We try to do a little bit of maintenance. It’s a little bit difficult when the ship’s open to the public seven days a week. So you’re rather limited in what you can do.

Hard to get in here at Hillarys?

Rather a small gap to come through there. We managed it. Just big enough for us to get in.

How wide is the Duyfken?

About this wide (he quips and points across the ship). The width is – we’re about 22-23m long – 6m, just a fraction over 6m.

She came into harbour under motor?

We sailed all the way up from Fremantle for about four hours. We ended up about four miles to the west of the Centaur beacon and then we motored in. We had a good four hours under sail, with all the sails set.

Bit of a celebration on board?

Everybody happy to be here. All these people here are all crew who have sailed with us through the summer; river sails. We had 25 of our crew (on this trip) and four people from AQWA and Cr Taylor from Joondalup Council

Are you a sailor by trade?

I was at sea all my life. I had 48 years at sea before I retired. This is my busman’s holiday now, my retirement job. I’ve been with various companies. I started off with British India Company in the UK as an 18-year-old cadet, moved over to Australia about 35 years ago. I started working for BHP on the big bulk carriers, 200,000-tonne bulk carriers like the ones that go to Port Hedland. Now I’ve downsized a little bit.

Any stories about the Duyfken you’re fond of?

It’s great fun. Yesterday we went off Fremantle and did some acoustic tests on our cannon. We actually fired it a couple of times just to see how noisy it was. We’re hoping to fire it in the Swan River. But I think it’s going to be too noisy.